How to Get Pregnant

It isn’t always as easy as you think for a woman to get pregnant and it is remarkably dependent on what you eat and drink in the month before and the weeks after conception since the ova takes a month to fully mature.

This depends both on a hormone called LHRH (luteinising hormone releasing hormone) which causes your pituitary gland to stimulate the development of an egg (or ovum) that causes ovulation, and your ‘methylation’ potential. A deficiency in either zinc or B6 causes a deficiency in LHRH, so your fertility decreases. A deficiency of these nutrients, or folate or B12, messes up methylation.


Methylation is how genes do the right thing and DNA is protected. One’s methylation ability is determined by blood levels of homocysteine – the higher your homocysteine the worse is methylation and the greater are the chances of not conceiving, or having pregnancy problems. An extreme example of this is neural tube defects (spina bifida). This is conceived of as a result of folate deficiency rich in greens and beans, hence the recommendation that women trying to conceive consume 400mcg a day, but really it is a methylation problem. Lack of B12, a real concern for vegans who don’t supplement, is also a problem. B6 and zinc are also involved. So it’s best to supplement a high strength ‘multi’ providing, for example, B6 20mg, folate 400mcg, B12 10mcg and zinc 15mg just to be on the safe side. Even better is to check your homocysteine level. Below 7µmol/l is optimal. The risk associated with older mothers is more to do with methylation, which protects DNA. So, older mums would do well to check their homocysteine and keep it down with homocysteine lowering supplements.

Essential Fats & Antioxidants

The two other critical factors are having the right balance of essential fats – both omega-6 from seeds and omega-3 from oily fish, chia and flax, plus dark green leafy veg  are vital for conception – and antioxidants. The primary source of damage to DNA comes from oxidation. However, the evidence of a direct link to female fertility is weaker than it is to sperm quality, which is, of course, the other side of the fertility equation. Coenzyme Q10 (or ubiquinol), given at relatively high daily amounts of 180mg up to 600mg, has been shown to increase chances of conception in a number of studies. I’d recommend supplementing an all round antioxidant including vitamins A,C, E and selenium, plus extra CoQ or ubiquinol, as well as a supplement providing both omega-3 and omega-6, ideally either borage oil or evening primrose oil for a direct source of GLA for the best chances of conception. Vitamin D is important too.

Weight, Blood Sugar Control and Stress

One of the main factors that affects fertility is having polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or endometriosis. PCOS is strongly linked to being overweight, and both tie in to a loss of blood sugar control and excessive stress. When the mind triggers a stress reaction the body stops supporting conception. Rebound blood sugar lows, a consequence of eating a high sugar of GL diet, trigger release of adrenal hormones.  Stress, that is the release of adrenal hormones, uses up progesterone to make the adrenal hormone cortisol instead of oestrogens and testosterone, so vital for sex drive. Low progesterone levels, potentially a result of too much stress, is a major cause of early miscarriage and the reason why progesterone is given to women receiving IVF to increase the chances of conception. So, losing weight, eating a low GL diet and building stress resilience are vital factors for achieving a healthy pregnancy.

Optimum Diet for Pregnancy

While this defines an optimal diet for pregnancy – high in antioxidant rich fruit and veg, essential fats from fish, nuts and seeds, wholefoods with a low GL, hence avoiding sugar – the other critical pregnancy food factor is protein literally used to build a baby. That is why the pregnancy requirement for protein  goes up by 13 per cent – from 45g a day (or 15 per cent of total calories) to around 51g. Since eating protein with slow-releasing carbohydrates even further lowers the GL (glycemic load) having breakfasts and main meals combining the two is a good way to go. This could be nuts or seeds with cereal and a nut milk such as almond, or eggs with a wholegrain toast, or yoghurt with berries, seeds or nuts.

Further Information

Find out more in Optimum Nutrition Before, During and After Pregnancy (Piatkus). For supplement support for healthy hormonal balance see Female Balance a unique formulation containing B6, B3, B12, Vitamin C, Folic Acid, Magnesium, Zinc and more. Designed to be combined with Optimum Nutrition Formula.